Dr. Fred Rueggeberg, a professor in the Department of Restorative Services with a joint appointment in the Graduate School, earned his dental degree from Emory University in 1979 and a master’s degree in dental materials from the University of Michigan. He joined the faculty in 1987 to develop and refine biomaterials used in dentistry. His advice:
“I love to tinker and wanted a career that combined hand skills and mind skills. I thought about engineering, but the economy was bad, so I decided on dental school. But I lived in Delaware, which doesn’t have a dental school, so I had the disadvantage of applying to schools as an out-of-state applicant. I didn’t get in the first year, but I tried again a year later and was accepted to Emory.”
>Find your best fit.
“The technical part of dentistry always came easily to me. The people skills were more challenging. But I pushed myself. The people I most respect are older clinicians who wake up every morning still excited to go to work and do it all over again. I enjoyed private practice, but I wanted the best fit possible. I decided to focus on research, so I earned a master’s degree in biomaterials and joined the DCG faculty in 1987 to head the light-curing/polymer investigation section.”
“I work behind the scenes to help solve clinicians’ problems. I have multiple patents and recently received one incorporating particles in fillings that ensure they harden and adhere uniformly during light-curing. As excited as some people are about clinical dentistry, that’s how excited I get about solving technical problems.”
“I advise students to realize their jobs will be doing surgery on patients who are awake and conversant. If they aren’t committed to their patients, they can’t fake it. I also stress critical thinking: Don’t always check your phone for a solution; think through a problem and figure out the solution for yourself.”
>Challenge, don’t intimidate.
“When I joined the faculty, I was advised to submit my master’s thesis for publication. I asked a colleague to proof it and gave him a red pen for edits, but I didn’t think he’d need it. When I asked if he’d finished it, he said, ‘You got another red pen?’ He told me I was writing to impress, not inform. I’ve never forgotten that. Teaching is the most important thing I do, and I never want to intimidate my students. I want to challenge them.”